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Prostate gland enlargement - Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
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Prostate gland enlargement - Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)

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The prostate is a sex gland in men. It is about the size of a walnut, and surrounds the neck of the bladder and urethra - the tube that carries urine from the bladder. It is partly muscular and partly glandular, with ducts opening into the prostatic portion of the urethra. It is made up of three lobes: a center lobe with one lobe on each side.  The gland's primary function is to produce most of the fluids in semen, the fluid that nourishes and transports sperm.


Making some lifestyle changes can often help control the symptoms of an enlarged prostate and prevent your condition from worsening. Consider these steps:

  • Limit beverages in the evening. Stop drinking water and other beverages after 7 p.m. to reduce your need to go to the bathroom at night. In particular, beverages that contain caffeine will increase urine production, cause bladder irritation and aggravate your symptoms.

  • Empty your bladder. Avoid letting your bladder get full. Try to urinate all that you can each time you go to the bathroom. For some men, sitting on the toilet is more effective than standing. Try following a daily time schedule for urinating, such as on long trips.

  • Limit alcohol. Alcohol increases urine production and irritates your bladder.

  • Be careful with over-the-counter decongestants. They can cause the band of muscles that control urine flow from your urethra (urethral sphincter) to tighten, making urination more difficult.

  • Keep active. Inactivity causes you to retain urine. Even a small amount of exercise can reduce urinary problems caused by an enlarged prostate.

  • Stay warm. Cold weather can lead to urine retention and increase your urgency to urinate.

Complementary and alternative medicine

Health food stores carry a number of herbs that are marketed to treat prostate enlargement. But only saw palmetto has been studied in large, long-term trials and proved to show some effectiveness. However, scientific data is still lacking.

Saw palmetto is thought to work similar to the medication finasteride by preventing testosterone from breaking down into another form of the hormone associated with prostate tissue growth. Studies have shown saw palmetto to be as effective as finasteride, and it appears to produce fewer side effects. Additional studies are needed to determine the appropriate daily dosage of the supplement and its long-term effectiveness.

Saw palmetto works slowly. Most men begin to see an improvement in their urinary symptoms within one to three months. If after three months you haven't noticed any benefit from the product, then it may not work for you. It appears safe to take saw palmetto indefinitely, but possible effects from long-term use are unknown.

One drawback of this herb, and many other such herbal products, is that it may suppress your baseline PSA level. This action can interfere with the effectiveness of the PSA test for prostate cancer. If you take saw palmetto or another herbal medicine, tell your doctor before having a PSA test.

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